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What is the Reason: Tzaddik 2

I am troubled by your answer to the question, “What is the reason we ask Tzaddikim (Righteous People) to pray for us? Essentially your answer seems to be either 1) because it says so, or, 2) because those before us did it.What kind of an answer is this? Does the Torah teach that there needs to be an intermediary between G-d and me? Am I building my relationship with G-d when I ask a Tzaddik to pray for me, or when he does pray for me? Am I introspecting, examining my life and deeds more deeply, in light of the problem I am facing when I ask a Tzaddik to pray for me, or when he does pray for me? It seems to me that this practice is dangerous because it can lead to Rebbe worship – the beginning of the slippery slope to idol worship (Heaven forbid). L.F. Santa Monica, CA.


Thank you for pointing out the important questions that I left unanswered last week. The best way to approach the essential issues you raised is to define Tzaddik, Rabbi, Beracha (Blessing) and the parameters of prayer.

People have an almost ethereal concept of a Tzaddik, perhaps an image of an old man with a long white beard etc. The “Tzaddik” of the Bible is Joseph who was the provider. The true definition of Tzaddik is “Life-Giver”. This is similar to the true definition of Rabbi or Rebbi; it derives from Rav – To Increase or Expand.

The Rabbi’s job, as is the job of a Tzaddik, is to nurture the student’s growth as a human being. If a rabbi or Tzaddik simply tells people what to do, or allows or, even worse, advocates the student’s dependence on the teacher, he is not a Life-Giver but a Life-Taker. The rabbi is not expanding his student’s soul, but actually stifling his growth. The opening Mishna in Chapters of Our Fathers teaches that a teacher must “Make many students stand up on their own”; the successful teacher is one who nurtures independence in his/her students.

The purpose of going to a Rabbi/Tzaddik/Teacher is to receive guidance in our Service of God, direction in the development of our personal attributes, and inspiration to achieve more. The Rabbi/Tzaddik?Teacher’s job is to respond to the supplicant by pointing out how they can use the situation as an opportunity to grow. (See the Gra on Proverbs 16:4).

This is exactly what a Beracha-Blessing should be; it is a focus on the strengths of the student and guidance in how to use those strengths as pipes that can be expanded to receive more of God’s abundance. Isaac asked Esau to hunt for food and to serve it. Isaac wanted to focus on Esau’s gifts as a hunter and as an expert in honoring his father.

When we ask a Tzaddik for a blessing we are not relying on his/her magical connection to God that will allow the blessing to be effective. We approach the Tzaddik who has insight into our strengths and will help us grow into people who can receive more of God’s abundance.

We all pray for each other. In fact, “a prisoner cannot free himself from prison”, sometimes we need others to pray for us, simply because we are stuck, or lack clarity. We ask anyone and everyone to pray for us. We also ask “Master Prayors”, people who love and live prayer not because of a special connection with God, but because of their prayer skills. It is not coincidental that the best Prayors are the true Rabbis and Tzaddikim, who nurture our growth and development.

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